A few days ago I missed my flight and I felt stupid and lonely and stuck. I was physically stuck in Fiumicino Airport, in Rome, because Alitalia couldn’t find my huge luggage that was already checked-in about two hours prior to my flight.
Long story short, I’ve spent ten days in Italy with a huge group of Jewish students from around Europe. Jews love community life and I must say that going to Jewish camps as a kid changed my life – not in a religious manner (cuz I’m not even religious), but in a “I had so many opportunities in life through those Jewish camps” manner.
They say that Jewish people love communities as an after-effect of the Holocaust. I’d say I love people working in communities simply because it’s super-efficient.
Anyway, back to my story: after those ten days we had a bus take us to the airports in Rome (there are two). It was about 1 PM when we arrived and my airplane was going to take-off at exactly 3:10 PM. How could I miss the flight, right?
There were some friends with me: two flying to Belgrade, Serbia and one flying to Sofia, Bulgaria. I was flying to Bucharest, Romania.
Belgrade was departing at 3:00 PM, Sofia was departing at 3:05 PM and, as I said, Bucharest was departing at 3:10 PM.
So we checked-in together, we had some food together, we waited for each other to visit the restrooms and we got separated right before reaching the gates, at the customs: I was the only one with an European ID.
My three friends went left to non-European passports, while I went right. We hugged fast, just in case we won’t see each other after customs, but concluded that there is enough time for us to meet again at the gates.
Well … here is where the story goes wrong. There was just one long line for my European ID and about 10 different lines for the non-EU passports. And it was about 2:40 PM.
I saw my friends finish pretty fast while I was feeling special, as an European. It all moved soooo sloooow.
It was 2:53 PM when I finished with customs and 2:57 PM when I finally reached my gate. I knew the gate was going to close 15 minutes prior to the departure, but I heard other Romanians at the customs queue, so I didn’t really panic.
When I finally reached my gate, there was no one there, except two ladies from Alitalia with a bunch of tickets.
“Sorry, sir, you just missed your flight.”, she told me with a smile on her face.
My brain froze. How could I?!
I won’t continue the story from here simply because it makes no sense: They couldn’t find my huge luggage for about an hour, they made me buy a new ticket for the same day, but six hour later and so on.
Every time something negative happens …
Every time something negative happens I try to find meanings. I know, it may sound stupid, but giving meanings to things that happen to me usually save my mood. So let’s just say it’s a tactic I use.
So after I got my luggage back, bought a new ticket and checked-in for the second time, I had to waste about 5 hours in Fiumicino Airport. My mood was low and I was really mad I missed my flight. So I got myself a donut covered in sugar and a coffee, had a sit and started thinking: Why am I here? What the hell am I supposed to do here for so many hours? What’s positive in this whole situation?
Hours passed with no answer.
At 1 AM I finally landed in Bucharest. I was tired and disappointed with my wasted day. I could’ve been in Bucharest at 6 PM … but, oh well, life.
I ordered a cab and resigned from finding a meaning to my negative experience that day.
The cab driver.
The cab driver was about 45 years old, not that tall, and as any cab driver (in Bucharest) he was looking for a conversation. I was not going to offer him one simply because my mood was still bad.
He started telling me about his adopted daughter and about how happy he is with his decision in life. I couldn’t ignore him like an asshole, so I told him I’m impressed by his decision. He continued by exposing the reasons behind his decision (he and his wife couldn’t have kids) and by saying that as a cab driver he doesn’t make much, but he makes enough to have a nice family.
15 minutes into the ride my mood was getting better and I was happy to hear a nice family story.
“People don’t tip us anymore.”
Then, from that great cab driver with an amazing story, he turned into that classic Sir. Whine-A-Lot kind of driver who makes you feel bad about the fact that people don’t tip.
“People don’t tip us anymore.”, he said.
“Well, I don’t usually tip if I don’t have a good reason…”, I answered.
“No, I don’t talk about you. I talk about those rich bastards who dress nicely. Those rich people, they used to tip.” and he whined and whined and whined and my mood was back on track.
At one point I wasn’t even listening to him anymore. But he “woke me up” by asking me a question and turning around:
“You know who are the worst clients I ever had?”
“I have no clue.”, I answered expecting nothing.
“Jews. Jews are the worst!”, he almost started screaming.
My heart started beating fast. I couldn’t really control it.
“Every time I pick up Jews from the airport I get tricked by them!”
“How is that possible?”, I asked him, barely being able to speak.
“They are Jewish, it’s simple, they don’t like to pay for stuff. Every time I drive a Jew to the Marriott Hotel, someone from the hotel has to pay for them. They never pay the right amount or, even worse, they pay me in Dollars or Euro.”
He kept on storytelling a few incidents he had with Jews. I couldn’t really follow him because I was a bit shocked by his beliefs.
So he’s a cab driver, about 45, a really nice guy, struggling hard to make money and take care of his family that including an adopted daughter.
I think that if you adopt a child, that says a lot about you. Or it should say. It’s one of the most human things to do… So how can this guy talk so nasty about some people he doesn’t even know?
After a while I came up with a brave question: “How did you know they were Jews? These days nothing tells a person is Jewish. Was it their nose?”, I asked and laughed because my nose is totally Jewish.
He came up with different explanations: the way they look, the language they talk, the places they go to. To put it short: he was not sure they were Jews, he guessed.
It was almost 2 AM. I wasn’t sad anymore, I wasn’t tired anymore … I was just sure that the cab driver was the meaning.
“So how should I trick you now?”, I asked the cab driver right after he stopped the car in front of my house.
“What? What do you mean?”, he turned around and asked me clearly confused.
“You said that every time you pick up Jews from the airport you get tricked by them… How should I trick you now?”, I asked him with a huge smile on my face. I did try to hide my smile, but I couldn’t.
“Oh, my God, you are Jewish?! But how? How do you speak perfect Romanian?”, he continued confused.
I told him my name. It’s a super-rare name around Romania. I even showed him my ID to show off the city where I was born (Ashkelon, Israel). He was fascinated and he felt bad, I could see it in his eyes.
“Listen, it’s simple: I’m Jewish and I just came from a huge international Jewish meeting. We were about 300 people there and, most probably, not each and every one of those people would tip you. And that’s ok, right?”
“Not all cab drivers adopt a daughter. Not all cab drivers are nice people. Not all cab drivers are fair. However, I didn’t judge you by the fact that you are a cab driver… Then why would you judge Jews like that?”
He tried to say something, but before he could I carried on with my monologue:
“I’m 25 and I’m fascinated by my Jewish roots. My great-grandmother was in the Holocaust and if it wasn’t for her strength, we probably would’ve never met. I’m here to ask you to never talk about Jews the way you did tonight. Not because I’m Jewish, but because it’s unfair and not true.”
He looked me in the eyes.
“When you told me you adopted a child I was so impressed… I bet you are an awesome father. But what you think about Jews is simply a stupid generalization. What you told me about Jews doesn’t make you a honorable man. And I wasn’t expecting that from someone like you.”
I had to conclude the whole thing because we were just sitting there, on a driving lane, in front of my house.
“Please never ever do that again. Not because I tell you so, but because it’s not right.”, I ended and started searching for cash.
He said sorry many times. He looked like what I told him had hurt him.
I payed 40 lei instead of 34. I tipped him and told him I’m doing it because I’m Jewish. He laughed.
We got out of the cab, he grabbed my huge luggage and I shook his hand looking him straight in the eyes: “Thank you for the ride.”, I said.
“Thank you for the lesson.”, he answered.
Every time something negative happens I try to find meanings. I know, it may sound stupid, but giving meanings to things that happen to me usually save my mood. I think I missed my flight so that this wonderful cab driver would finally meet a Jew. And I’m glad it happened.